Free Email for your Domain
Now that Google Apps has shut it’s doors to free business, and is only offering their free domain email on a pay-per-user basis, a lot of people are asking where to go instead? While Google’s free service is unparalleled, there are still a number of absolutely no cost solutions that you can use for your business.
But before we start looking at these, you might be asking, what is Domain Email and why do I need it?
Domain Email means that it is a service in which you can host email accounts using your own top level domain (ie: yourdomain.com). So rather then using addresses based on the service, like @gmail.com or @hotmail.com, you can use your own domain to personalize the email address (ie: firstname.lastname@example.org). If your are a small, start-up business owner, this small step can go a long way in establishing trust and a professional look and feel with your client-base.
But, email hosting is a pretty standard feature for web hosts, so why would I need these services?
- Your email will always be in 1 spot, if and when you change web hosts
- Running a personal web server, and your ISP is blocking SMTP ports
- Not using a web host at all and just want a personalized email address
Update Apr 2014 – It looks like Microsoft is following suit with Google and shutting it’s doors on it’s free custom domain email offering! If you already had your account created you will be grandfathered in to a free plan, but otherwise you are out of luck.
Outlook.com is a fairly recent re-incarnation of Hotmail, in which Microsoft is trying to bring their free email platform into the 21st century and compete toe to toe with Gmail. Part of their free service includes the ability to register and use your own domain names for their service. There are no limitations to the number of domains you can add to their system, and there are no limitation to the number of accounts you can setup on your domain. The service also includes free POP3 and IMAP access to your account meaning you do not need to login through their service, and can instead use a local email application or connect to it from your gmail account if you are prefer.
While testing the service, the only drawback I could really find was the lack of ability to create account Alias’ with your domain. So if you wanted to have your info@, webmaster@, support@ all flow into one account, you actually need to create all the accounts and setup forwards on the account to do so. Quite a time consuming process compared to the more usual process of creating one account and then simply creating alias’ for that account.
Aside from that, there are really no drawbacks to this free service. At no point was I prodded to upgrade to a premium service or not able to do something without some incurred cost. There are really no limitations and the service could be as viable for a large corporation as it is for a single user personal account.
Want some help getting started?
- First you will need to make sure you have a live.com account (If you have signed up for any Microsoft service before, like Hotmail, MSN, Xbox Live, you will already have this). Register a live.com account if not!
- Head to Live.com Domain Management where we will enter our domain information.
- “Get Started” under the Custom Domains heading to enter our domain information
- Fill in our domain information and continue
- Solve the Captcha
- For non-technical users the next part is going to look like Greek and you may need to get in touch with the technical support of your domain provider. This screen is going to provide us a set of DNS entries that will need to be entered into our DNS configuration in order to a) Point our mail towards outlook and b) Prove that we are the legitimate owners of the domain. Simply follow the instructions on the page to complete this step and verify your domain.
- Off we go! You are now setup with your domain in Outlook.com and can use the domain management screen to create and manage your accounts.
Zoho Mail is another free offering allowing you to use your own domain for personalized email accounts. Zoho’s free service however has some restrictions. The free service will only allow a single domain to be hosted, and is limited to 5 accounts for that domain. Many users running just a single website should have no problem with this however webmasters who are managing a group of sites will find this limitation to be a game breaker without moving towards a premium service tier.
So with these limitations, what does Zoho provide to make it even worth considering over Outlook? It’s user interface. If you are planning to access your accounts via webmail rather then POP3/IMAP, then Zoho’s webmail interface simply wipes the floor with Outlook. It’s an extremely feature rich application rivaling Gmail or software based solutions and is definitely not going to leave you disappointed.
Want some help getting started?
- Head to Zoho Mail’s website.
- “Get Started” and then select the “Lite” tier of service (the Free service!)
- You will be asked for your domain information, fill it in here.
- The next steps will be the usual account registration process. Fill in your details and confirm your email account.
- Similarly to Outlook we now need to validate our ownership of the domain, and then setup our MX records. Simply follow the instructions here to get these steps complete.
- That’s it! Create your accounts and you can start using the service.
Another option is Yandex, which is essentially the Russian equivalent of Google. Unfortunately the email admin panels are in Russian, but you can always run it through a translator long enough to get signed up and familiar with the layout. You can host mail for your own domains and have a quite hefty 1000 email accounts allowed on the free version of the software.
If you have any tips on more sources that offer FREE custom domain based email hosting, please let us know in the comments below! Unfortunately this is an area that seems sorely lacking right now, which is surprising giving the ad delivery opportunities that could exist for this service.